Dazzling Image of Messier 13

Here’s a stunning image of the Hercules cluster to start your week.  This image, taken by astrophotographer Roth Ritter, shows some of the nearly 300,000 stars in this dense ball of ancient stars.  And since we’re looking into deep space here, there’s an unexpected bonus in this lovely image…

The Hercules cluster, also catalogued as M13 or NGC 6205, lies some 25,000 light years from Earth.  While not as bright as omega Centauri or 47 Tucanae in the southern hemisphere, M13 is one of the few such clusters visible to the unaided eye in dark sky.  You can learn more about globular clusters here…

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The globular cluster Messier 13… click to enlarge (credit: Roth Ritter)

Like most globulars, M13 lies out of the plane of the Milky Way.  So we’re looking here into deep intergalactic space here… all the individual stars are foreground stars in our galaxy.  The spiral galaxy in the lower left corner is NGC 6207, an 11-th magnitude object some 45 million light years away.  But if you look harder at this image, you’ll see dozens of galaxies much further away.  How many can you count?

You can see M13 for yourself (though not as bright as this!) in the “Keystone” of Hercules, a constellation located between the bright stars Arcturus and Vega.  Here’s an image to show you where to look…

The location of M13 in the constellation Hercules, between the bright stars Arcturus and Vega (click to enlarge).

Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “Every passing hour brings the Solar System forty-three thousand miles closer to Globular Cluster M13 in Hercules — and still there are some misfits who insist that there is no such thing as progress.”